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The Power of Purpose & Belonging in Student Success

We will be featuring a growing playlist of videos about the theme of purpose and belonging. This list will keep growing throughout the year.

Each year, the Teaching & Learning Excellence Division (TLED) picks a theme designed to inspire faculty to take a deep dive into higher education issues. The theme guides TLED’s work in professional development, projects, and communications, including our infamous wall calendar. AY22’s theme is “The Power of Purpose & Belonging in Student Success.” More will be shared on this topic throughout the year via speaker series, podcasts, events, newsletters, videos, and social media.

Pur·pose /ˈpərpəs/

Noun: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
Verb: have as one’s intention or objective.

Be·long·ing /bəˈlôNGiNG/

Noun: an affinity for a place or situation.

Verb: be a member or part of (a particular group, organization, or class).

It goes by many names across many cultures — ikigai, mission, Dharma, passion, your story, your essence, your “why”…and this multitude of vocabulary words and definitions across civilizations surely signifies the importance of PURPOSE in our lives. Current research in the Guided Pathways movement and beyond shows that the nature of student success is based on motivation and purpose. Motivation and purpose are inherently linked to grit, persistence, and serve as the accelerators that get our students across the graduation stage. The data shows that having a strong purpose can:

Further research on the science of purpose shows that “purpose positively impacts the entire human psychosomatic expression, e.g., goals, behavioral consistency, cognitive engagement, mental health, physical health, religiosity, stress responses, etc.” (McKnight, 2009) Having meaning in life is even associated with higher levels of:

      • Connectedness to parents, school, peers, and teachers
      • Academic self-efficacy (study skills, time management, critical and creative thinking, and involvement in learning), and
      • Personal self-efficacy dimensions (positive self-concept, problem-solving, self-management, and self-reflection) (University of Hong Kong, 2020).

Davis Jenkins, Community College Research Center Senior Researcher and leader in the Guided Pathways movement, asks “How do we ensure that every entering student has a “light the fire” learning experience in a field of interest in term 1?” A focus on finding purpose may be the answer. The questions we need to ask our students as educators and advisors is not “What do you want to be?” but rather…

What challenges do you want to take on?

What problem do you want to solve?

What story do you want to tell? 

What meaning do you want to create?

If we can model this passion for what we do in our disciplines, if we can show students the meaning behind what we’re asking them to learn about, then they will find their way to what matters most – their own purpose.

We can start by examining our own purpose. When was the last time you looked at ACC’s Mission, Vision & Values and thought about your calling?

“The advice that I would give someone [would] be to teach with passion and with purpose. You feel joy and euphoria, hopefully, about your subject matter, so lead with your heart, lead with your core, and try to communicate that to your students…so that they can find what it is that makes them feel [that] way.”

-Vanessa Lazo, Department Chair, Foreign Language

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